Descendant of the Crane by Joan He: Review

Descendant of the CraneRating: 4/5
I received this free ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“…we fear what we don’t know.”

Princess Hesina of Yan finds herself thrust into a tricky political world after her father dies and she takes the throne as queen. In an act to discover more about her father’s death, she seeks help from a soothsayer- one who practices magic. In a kingdom where magic and the people who practice it are outlawed, this action pushes Hesina down a path where she discovers that much of what she thought she knew might not be true. With the help of her remaining family and Akira, a mysterious convicted criminal, Hesina strives to make sense of her father’s death while also exposing the flaws within the court and the prejudices of her own beliefs.

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Empress of Bright Moon Series by Weina Dai Randel


Rating: 4/5

I received both of these books as free ARCs from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

When Mei is a young child, her father is visited by a monk who predicts that she will one day become the Empress of China. The monk says that though she will become a great leader, Mei will first need to endure many hardships. Hoping that Mei will one day bring glory to the family name, her father trains her to become a future leader. It appears that everything will go well, but one day Mei’s father dies in a tragic accident. That event changes life as she knows it and sets her on the path that will lead her to become the future Empress Wu.

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Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit: Review

Anna and the Swallow ManRating: 4/5

I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher.

Anna and the Swallow Man is set in 1939 Poland as Germany begins to exert its power over the country. The story follows Anna, a sheltered seven-year-old girl, after her scholar father has been taken by the Germans. She meets a man who, like her, can speak many languages and dubs him the Swallow Man after he shows her how he talks to birds. Seeing that she is alone, he takes her under his wing and the two struggle to survive as the world erupts into war.

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Down the Rabbit Hole (Audiobook) by Holly Madison: Review

Down the Rabbit HoleRating: 5/5

Holly Madison is probably best known for starring on the E! TV show The Girls Next Door. For many that’s where their knowledge of Holly Madison begins and ends and until I listened to this audiobook that’s all I knew as well. While the book narrates Holly’s life in the Playboy mansion and the obstacles that she had to overcome during her time there, it is also the story of a young woman coming into her own despite the people in her life who attempted to hold her back.

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How Audiobooks Kept Me Reading in 2015

2015 was a great reading year for me. I managed to make my way through 125 books; 25 over my goal of 100 for the year. Despite how busy I was- moving across the country and then beginning my job hunt- I found something that kept me from falling in a reading slump and kept my brain busy through long plane rides and train commutes.

I’ve dabbled in audiobooks in the past. Tina Fey’s Bossypants kept me laughing through a 2 hour drive home during my school’s winter break one year. Similarly, Mindy Kaling’s first book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? helped get me through the drive to and from my college campus for a couple of weeks. I loved these books because I loved the authors and the fact that they were the ones narrating these stories made me feel as though I were listening to podcasts.

Last year I continued my audiobook trend and picked up Amy Poehler’s Yes Please and Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me?  Both were fantastic as I had expected but they made me realize something- if I could listen to autobiographies by my favorite actresses, why not fiction or other nonfiction books? And thus began my exploration of the audiobook format.

I started with nonfiction as it had been the genre that had introduced me to the wonder of listening to my books. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer was tough to listen to due to the subject matter but I was glad that I had once I’d finished it. It was something that I knew I would have struggled to read through in a text format but thanks to the audiobook I was able to speed through it when I was driving or doing laundry. Running became something that I enjoyed doing as I worked my way into fiction with A Game of Thrones. The tiny print of the mass-market paper back no longer held me back from delving into the original story that inspired my favorite show.

I listened to audiobooks around the house as I unpacked from the move (a task that seemed never ending) and did chores that I would normally have wanted to put off. My commute went by too quickly when I found a book that I really enjoyed. I found myself dragging my feet as I trudged off of the train, hoping to get to the end of a chapter before having to tune back into the real world.

Though last year should have been the year that I failed to meet my reading goal, I was able to surpass it and I’d like to think that audiobooks helped me do that. Even as I sit typing this post, I have a few books downloading to my phone so I can have something nice to listen to while I run.

For those of you who have doubts about liking the audiobook format, I would say to give it a try! I honestly thought it would be an occasional listen for me when a favorite celebrity put out a new book but now I find myself reaching for my headphones first when a new book that I want to read comes out. Sites like Audible have 30 day free trials for new users. I personally am a fan of Scribd which is a subscription site that has ebooks as well as audiobooks.

Here are some great audiobook reads (listens?) if you aren’t sure of where to start:

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The Girl Who Slept with God: A Novel by Val Brelinski

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Happy listening!

Em’s Adventures in Subscription Reading Services: the Scribd Edition

Last summer I moved across the country and because of that, my book collection has dwindled significantly. My shelves of books have been reduced to a handful of favorites while the rest have stayed behind to grace the moving boxes of my parents’ basement. Though this would normally be troubling, I’ve been able to continue my reading habits without the stacks of books that I’d once carted around through Scribd’s subscription service. I tried Oyster– which is unfortunately no longer around- earlier last year and loved the selection that I could access without having to pay for each individual book. Once my trial ended with Oyster, I decided to try a new service that I’d been hearing great things about: Scribd.

Scribd and I have had an interesting relationship since I first started using it months ago. When I first began my account, I had unlimited access to ebooks, comics, and- most importantly- audiobooks. While I’ve read my way through dozens of ebooks and comics, it was the audiobooks that sealed the deal for me with Scribd. Moving and unpacking is serious business but listening to new audiobooks while I did it made it so much more bearable.

Shortly after I switched over from my free trial to paying for my account, Scribd changed things up. Rather than having unlimited access to all of the audiobooks in their collection, I was introduced to a credit system. Much like Audible, Scribd’s audibooks now cost 1 credit. A credit is added each month when my subscription renews and I can save up to 6 credits at a time. I have to admit that I was a little frustrated during this transition. I had been spoiled with my unlimited access to audiobooks that would have cost me much more than my $8.99 subscription. However, I quickly realized something. Once the mind numbing days of moving were over, there was no way that I would be able to listen to more than 1 audiobook a month without neglecting the physical copies and ebooks that I needed to read. And, if I somehow managed to zoom through my accumulated credits, I could still purchase another credit for $8.99. Pretty cheap considering how expensive audiobooks can be elsewhere.

Needless to say, I’m happy with Scribd and have continued my subscription with them despite the changes. I’ve enjoyed listening to new books as well as reading through their collection of ebooks and comics on my train commute each day. Sometimes the Android app can be a little finicky but usually that’s because I’ve skipped an update.

You can try a 2 month free trial of Scribd using this link. It doesn’t hurt to give it a try and hopefully you can find something to start your reading year off right!

Happy reading and listening!

The Sisters of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy #1) by Sally Christie: Review

the sisters of versailles book coverRating: 4/5

I received this free ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Set in 18th century France at the court of Louis XV, The Sisters of Versailles follows the lives of five sisters and the successive rise and fall of each as mistress to the king. Though it sounds completely fictional, this is actually based on the Nesle sisters and their relationships with King Louis XV.

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Manga Classics: Emma by Jane Austen: Short Review

Rating: 3/5 Emma

I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

As someone who has always loved adaptations of Jane Austen’s works, I was thrilled to see this manga offered on Netgalley and immediately snatched it up. Emma was my favorite book by Austen in high school and since I’ve been zipping through graphic novels this month I thought it only appropriate to add this one to my reading list as well.

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Em’s Adventures in Subscription Reading Services: the Oyster Edition

If you’re like me, one trip to the library or bookstore isn’t enough to satisfy your book cravings. I’ll admit that over the past few years I’ve allowed my book buying habit to get a little out of hand. My poor little bookshelf is crammed full of books that I’ve yet to read but can’t bear to give away. This wouldn’t be an issue if my upcoming move wasn’t quickly approaching. As it is, I’m beginning the heartbreaking task of packing up and donating all that I’ve acquired in the past four years at school.

Cue the book gods. I’ve been listening to The Book Riot podcast as I’ve made my daily trip to work and class and heard them mention Scribd and Oyster. Scribd I’d heard of in the past but from what was being said, the site that I’d visited before has made a bit of a change.

These sites specialize in subscription reading services. Simply put, you pay each month for access to tons of ebooks. Once I realized that they have free one month trials I knew I had to give them a shot.

I started with Oyster because they had the book that I was looking for at the time (it was alright).

Here’s a quick overview:

Monthly cost: $9.95

Accessible: Web browser, Apple, Android, Kindle Fire, and Nook HD

Notable publishers: Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Bloosmbury, and Macmillan (there are plenty more but you should look them up and see for yourselves!)

I was incredibly impressed with the selection of books that I was presented with once I made my account. They even have the Harry Potter ebooks! The Android and Apple apps were easy to navigate and I loved the fact that I could change the theme of the pages in the books that I read. It’s also nice that I can switch between devices and Oyster will save where I’ve left off in a book.

I’m actually thinking about paying to continue using this service once my free trial is up in couple of weeks. I would definitely suggest Oyster for people looking to try a subscription service. The trial is long enough that you can get a nice feel of the website and build up a reading list.

If you sign up through this link- click– we will both get $15 credited to our accounts which is over one month’s worth of credit! It’s a pretty sweet deal and you honestly don’t have anything to lose.

Next stop: Scribd! Feel free to let me know of any subscription reading services that you know of. I’d love to check them out!

Happy reading!